Business collaboration is nothing new. 

Geeks and computer enthusiasts were sharing and chatting on bulletin board systems in the early 1980s, via Internet Relay Chat (IRC) in the late 1980s, eRoom-type tools in the 1990s and with technologies like Microsoft Sharepoint, Jive Software and Socialcast (now part of VMware) since the beginning of this millennium. And, of course, via email since it was first introduced. 

These capabilities, and the associated technologies, have evolved in the years since. Some now facilitate project management, communications and messaging between teams, as well as internal and external communities and what Forrester calls “lead applications” where the social stream is embedded in the application. 

This year's Forrester Wave Enterprise Collaboration, Q4 2016 looks at the nine providers that the report's lead author, analyst Craig Le Clair, concluded "matter most"in enterprise collaboration: Atlassian, IBM, Jive Software, Microsoft, SAP, Salesforce, Sitrion, TIBCO and VMware. 

Each of these vendors provide solutions that meet enterprise-wide, asynchronous knowledge-sharing requirements, but Forrester found only four of them to be leaders: IBM, Jive, Microsoft and Salesforce.

Disruptors Among the Notable Absences

In the report, Le Clair and co-authors Christopher Andrews, Art Schoeller and Sara Sjoblom acknowledged the challengers missing from the Wave. Slack and Workplace by Facebook didn't make the cut because of a lack of enterprise credentials, though Le Clair told CMSWire that he debated heavily about including each.

Also absent, Dropbox and Box are often adopted by teams as opposed to enterprise-wide, and according to Le Clair, "lean more toward document management." Other noteworthy collaboration offerings don’t (yet) have the breadth for this Wave, “but they are disruptive,” said the Forrester analyst.

A Platform Approach to Enterprise Collaboration

Does enterprise collaboration need to be a platform? 

From the capabilities this Wave judged vendors on, the answer to Forrester is yes. The authors looked for the following:

  • central administration
  • collaboration analytics
  • document collaboration
  • group and team messaging
  • home page and profile management
  • ideation
  • internal and external communities
  • real-time communication support
  • rich media
  • user personalization 

That being said, Le Clair went out of his way to make note of the universe of solutions.

converging markets in collaboration landscape
Forrester notes the collaboration landscape is comprised of multiple converging marketsForrester

In the report, the authors also closely examined how the adoption of decentralized collaboration solutions and advanced analytics have some vendors in this Wave fighting to remain relevant, but Le Clair seems to think that they will survive. 

4 Enterprise Collaboration Leaders, 1 Contender

Based on the above capabilities, the authors named IBM, Jive, Microsoft and Salesforce (in alphabetical order) leaders, with Atlassian barely missing the grade. 

It is worth noting that the report looked at the state of the solutions in August and September, before Microsoft Teams and Workplace by Facebook were launched. (Both will likely be covered by Forrester when it looks at real time collaboration next year.)


Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft was the clear leader in terms of both its current offering and its strategy. It rivals Salesforce (Chatter) for market presence. 

Le Clair wrote that,"Microsoft starts with this premise: No single collaboration app can meet all of today's employee needs." 

Learning Opportunities

He made note of document-centric collaboration in Sharepoint, Office 365 Groups for small teams of Outlook users, Skype for Business for communication in real-time, Yammer for communication enterprise-wide. The report also went into some depth about Office Graph, which will only get richer with the forthcoming LinkedIn integration (Microsoft's acquisition of LinkedIn was not complete at the time the report was written).


San Francisco-based Salesforce was weakest in strategy among the leaders, but its current offering rated highly and it boasts a strong market presence with over 250,000 companies using Chatter. 

The report highlighted collaboration not just within a single cloud but across Community and Service Clouds as well. Some recent additions to Salesforce such as Einstein and Lightning open new doors for insight, intelligence and productivity.


Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM has an incredible opportunity to leverage analytics to offer "personal assistance, to locate expertise, to eliminate noise and clutter, and to prioritize work," wrote Le Clair. But Watson's lack of integration with IBM Connections poses a problem. 

The Forrester analyst told CMSWire that the enterprise collaboration market is experiencing "modest to tepid" growth, so you can hardly blame IBM for integrating Watson in other solutions early on. Connections is generally well integrated with IBM products and its most relevant partners like Cisco and Box.


Palo Alto, Calif.-based Jive Software brands itself as a "collaboration hub" that brings together "people, ideas, processes, work streams, devices, and applications" as well as any of its much larger competitors, Le Clair told CMSWire. 

In the report, he singled Jive out for its template development which companies can use to replace their "tired intranets" as well as its ease of administration. Le Clair highlighted Jive's blue-chip customers' passion for its products which CMSWire witnessed earlier this year at Jive World. In terms of strategy, Jive rated highly, second only to Microsoft.

Atlassian, a Close Contender

Sydney-based Atlassian won high marks. Forrester not only compared its HipChat product to Slack, but also noted the 2000 add-on applications in its marketplace. Atlassian Confluence's high marks could potentially be made even higher for companies who choose to track issues with Atlassian's JIRA. Read the report (fee) to discover where it falls short.

Where the Collaboration Action Is

As interesting as collaboration solutions seem to be, Le Clair told CMSWire that only one collaboration category was growing at a furious pace: real-time chat geared toward the enterprise.

We'll have to wait until next year to see how the analysts rate them.